Two down, two to go.
With AAA Memphis and now-High-A Peoria covered, I’ve decided to cover the 2021 AA Springfield roster next. Truthfully, I’m doing this because it’s the roster that I’m least interested in of the four, and I’m hoping that my excitement for the Palm Beach roster will actually push me to write about it instead of blowing it off like I want to.
Anyway, here is the 2021 Springfield Cardinals Opening Day roster in all of its glory:
Any conversation about the roster for the Springfield Cardinals is going to start with the combo of catcher Ivan Herrera and infielder Nolan Gorman. These 20-year-olds (Herrera is a month younger than Gorman, who turns 21 on May 10th) will be the biggest draw for most that follow the minor leagues. You’ve heard about Gorman ad nauseam since the day that he was drafted, and even more since the day that the Cardinals traded for Nolan Arenado. There are a lot of people that thought that Gorman would start off at Memphis, but this is the right move. If it were up to me, I would have started him out at Peoria, to be completely honest. Gorman, while impressive in spring training, still has an approach issue and a hole in his swing. It seems like a big ask to have him start at an advanced level like Double-A while he’s working to both refine his approach and learn potentially multiple different defensive positions - second and the outfield. Gorman still possesses both raw and in-game power that few have in the organization, and he’s always been a quick learner and an over-performer defensively as compared to scouting grades. It’s going to be a lot of fun (hopefully) to see how quickly he’ll be up to the challenge of this tough league.
For about two years now, not from an unbiased ranking and evaluating standpoint, I’ve actually liked Ivan Herrera better than Gorman. Herrera still has work to do behind the plate, but I continue to be amazed by how he handles himself as a hitter. That hit tool is a carry tool, and the power is manifesting. There is so much about how he handles himself at the plate that reminds me of Edgar Renteria. With all of this praise, I’d also like to offer the sobering reminder that catching is the toughest position in professional sports, and catchers usually take more time to realize their achievable potential. Give Herrera some time to continue to develop. Let him breathe a little before we get carried away with the talk of him being Yadi’s true Heir-Presumptive. He's going to stick at catcher no doubt, and that's pretty cool.
While we are sticking with highly-touted draft picks, a big congratulations to former first-round draft pick and fan base whipping boy Delvin Perez on the advanced promotion to AA. As you all know by now, Delvin got his body into tremendous shape with his 20 months or so off from minor league baseball. He really hammered the ball during spring training, too. Hopefully he’ll continue to hammer the ball without compromising his great base running and potentially plus glove as a true short stop. He was taking great steps as a hitter (without power) at the end of the 2019 season. It’d be really awesome to see him take the same strides that Oscar Mercado took at AA all of those years ago. Like with Mercado, Perez is a burner, and it'd be nice to see him swipe a few extra bases here or there. He has it in him.
The next big-name bat for Springfield is big boi First baseman Luken Baker. Baker stands at 10’7”, 645 lbs, or something like that, and he has raw power to match his size. However, power isn’t his game. He has a great feel for the strike zone, and he has the potential to be the type of bat that walks and strikes out at a relatively similar, double-digits percentage. When he gets his body into one, he’ll definitely take it for a ride, though. When we last saw the big righty out of TCU, he had turned himself into a below average first baseman from a well-below average first baseman. Obviously, he’ll need to continue to grow in that department even if the DH is a part of a future CBA. The 2019 season was roller coaster of success and failure for him, as he was the best hitter in the then Florida State League during the months of April and August, but pretty terrible in the three middle months.
The infield is rounded out by primarily second basemen Irving Lopez and Nick Dunn, and utility fielder Juan Yepez. Dunn is a second baseman out of Maryland that is similar, at his peak, to a poor man’s version of Max Schrock. I really like both Yepez and Lopez, though. After completing his degree program at the beginning of 2019, Yepez took off in spurts during the 2019 season. He hit some of the hardest balls in the organization that season, and he really worked to clean up both his game and his body. Don’t be surprised if he’s turning heads in two months’ time while playing all over the diamond. Lopez is a team leader with a surprisingly poppy bat that buzzes all over the place. He’s a ton of fun to watch.
Backing up Herrera at catcher is Julio Rodriguez and Nick Raposo. Raposo was a undrafted free agent from the shortened 2020 draft that I haven’t seen enough to feel one way or the other about. I know that some are really excited about him, and it’s probably at least a little telling that he’s at AA even if he’s only going to be there for a taste as some of the catching gets worked out and healthy above him. Julio Rodriguez has dealt with some injuries recently, but he’s a very good defensive catcher and leader when he’s healthy. The best way to describe him behind the plate is to say that he is “solid, mistake-free, and mechanically sound.” He doesn’t offer a ton in the offensive department. He isn’t going to embarrass himself at the plate, however, and he’ll often work in the gap with a very direct swing.
EDIT: An update on Julio Rordriguez from @jmjones:
Speaking of former first round picks and fan base whipping boys, outfielder Nick Plummer has been very impressive during minor league spring training, from what I understand. A lot of people are quick to write Plummer off, and I honestly don’t blame them. But think about where he’s come from to get to this point. He was a prep draft pick from a cold climate that started counts 1-1. He enters the organization after the draft and basically misses his first two season with various injuries, mostly centered around his wrist area. At this point, you have to be kind of rushed with him, and Plummer doesn’t really respond to the challenge. When you put it into perspective like that, it makes a ton of sense to me how a 20-month-ish break could really help a smart and dedicated kid like Plummer. The verdict is far from “in,” but his story is going to be something to keep a close eye on. He's a great and smart kid, and you have to be pulling for him.
The other three outfielders on the Springfield roster are left-handed swinging Justin Toerner and right-handed swinging Chase Pinder and David Vinsky. Toerner is a legitimate prospect with a potenitally above average hit tool. He profiles best as a fourth outfielder type, but he also kind of reminds me of Skip Shumaker at the plate. I love that he plays with reckless abandon in the outfield. There is literally nothing that will stop him from making a catch. Outfield walls, be damned!! He struck out way more than anyone could have anticipated after getting promoted to AA in 2019, but that’s a number that I expect to see go down and quickly. He was pretty damn impressive in limited spring training appearances with the Cardinals, as well. I actually like him better than the Memphis trio of Capel, Hurst, and Nootbaar.
I’ve long been a fan of Chase Pinder, who is also a very good and fearless defensive outfielder. Pinder showed a ton of potential in his draft season, but he’s really struggled to rediscover it since. Hopefully the break was refreshing for him. David Vinsky was a 28th round pick in the 2019 draft. I do not have any feelings about Vinsky one way or the other. He seems like a really nice depth piece for the organization, and the type of guy that will be graded mostly on the type of at-bat he takes rather than the type of production that he puts out.
The Springfield pitching staff is kinda WILD
I swear, I don’t know much about half of these guys. That list includes: RHP Grant Black, RHP Jacob Bosiokovic, RHP Salvador Justo, and LHP Domingo Robles. There’s a weird amount of minor league free agents in this Double-A subgroup. Robles seems like he has a chance to be this season’s Ricardo Sanchez, and Black has a lively-as-hell arm, so I don’t want to discard those two. I’m just going to have to tune in and key in on as much of Bosiokovic and Justo (not to be confused with Francisco Justo who is one of my favorite young arms and pitching for Palm Beach) as possible.
You’ll know Left-handed reliever Jacob Patterson best as that lefty that faces the camera in center field when he comes set. He can be deceptive obviously, and his stuff can be good, but he got beat up pretty good the last time that there was a minor league season. If I’m being honestly, I thought that he was released from the organization until this roster came out. It’s been a weird 20 months, fam.
Sticking with the left-handed relievers, Patrick Dayton has had varying levels of success so far in his minor league career, and he’s a valuable arm for any minor league bullpen. RHP Edgar Gonzalez has dominant moments here and there, but he has yet to show the ability to command anything consistently. I’ve been told that he’s really worked hard in the offseason(s), so it’s worth keeping an eye on him. Shout out to RHP Kyle Leahy who has been effective when going up against inferior talent.
RHP Dalton Roach was supposed to be one of my sleepers entering the 2020 season, and I see no reason why I shouldn’t just bump that to 2021. I’ve written about him before, but he’s just the type of pitcher that commands everything pretty well, and with a heavy hand and repeatable delivery. Roach spent some time with the River City Rascals between being drafted by the Astros (and subsequently let walk) and signing as a minor league free with the Cardinals. So it’s a fun story to follow on a couple of different levels!
LHP Connor Thomas is one of two picks from the 2019 draft on this staff. Thomas really seemed like a LOOGY-at-best to me when I watched him at both Georgia Tech and in the minors during the 2019 season. I’m anxious to find out how wrong I am in that assessment.
RHP Jake Walsh was one of my sleepers entering the 2018 season, a season in which he pitched very well. Had it not been for arm issues in 2019, he easily could be in the same position with Memphis that Alex FaGalde is. He’s never going to blow anybody away, but he’s impressive to watch eat around the black of the strike zone. Hopefully the arm issues are in his rear view mirror.
The names on the staff to really keep an eye on at Springfield are RHP Griffin Roberts, RHP Alvaro Seijas, and RHP Andre Pallante.
Roberts has had a very weird and tumultuous minor league career. The Wake Forrest righty lost the first 50 games of his first full season to a cannabis suspension, then pitched terribly for Palm Beach after he served his suspension. Roberts’s slider is the best in the organization, and he can get by against inferior talent living slider/fastball. But even then, he was still susceptible to the vaunted “one bad inning” for Palm Beach, which would usually come in the first inning. After all of that struggle during the 2019 season, Roberts went to the AFL and appeared to refine his command (which was terrible in 2019), although his velocity was reportedly down. Since then, he’s had two spring trainings with the big club to make an impression. He’s been impressive in spurts, but not consistently enough.
You might know Alvaro Seijas best as that prospect that tweets cryptic emojis a lot. Or, you might know him as the top International pitcher of the 2015 J2, International free agent class. It’s hard to believe it, but Seijas is still just 22-years-old. He took some huge strides during the 2019 season, and it appeared that things were starting to come together for him when he could keep his emotions and body in check on the mound. Fast forward for what feels like a millennia and Seijas is no longer on the 40-man roster (because of the stupid 2020 season and its stupid need for pitchers), pitching for the age-and-talent-appropriate Springfield Cardinals. I’m anxious to see if he’s squared away his violent delivery and refined the command of his fastball and breaking ball. If he has then he’s going to be a name to watch closely.
I purposefully engineered this article to end with Andre Pallante. Pallante is the 4th round pick from the 2019 draft out of Cal-Irvine. Pallante is highly, highly decorated and he was a finalist for all of the important collegiate pitching awards as a Sophomore at the end of the 2018 season. A former member of the Team USA national team, Pallante pitched terrifically during 2019, but not award-worthy. He also doesn’t throw with a ton of velocity. This all played in the Cardinals favor, as the talented righty was around for the Cardinals in that fourth round. Pallante is a very good pitcher that commands his entire repertoire. He could easily be a fast mover in the organization. His breaking pitch can be devastating, and there weren’t too many times during the 2019 short-season after he was drafted that he allowed hard contact. If I were you, I’d keep a close eye on Pallante. He’s a very good pitcher.
And that’ll do it for Springfield! Just one more to go! We’ll see if I do it!!! (Sorry in advance for not doing it. Palm Beach is exciting, too. Shake my damn head, Kyle, you loser. Shake. My. Head)
Remember to go out and support your local minor league community! I’ll be in Springfield as soon as possible, and you should be, too! These operations need our support now more than ever!
Thanks to @Cardinalsgifs for the amazing picture of the Springfield logo over Hammons Fields. Gif’s is the best in the business.
Mr. Flores, let me interview you.
Thanks For Reading!!